In the episode "Turn Left" in the fourth season of the British Sci-Fi series Doctor Who, the show presents two alternate realities based on whether a character turns left or right while driving. The Gywenth Paltrow movie "Sliding Doors" shows how drastically different the main character's life turns out based on whether or not she catches the train. Some may think that life is too complex to have defining moments or that the decision to turn left or right or missing a train are too simple to have an impact on one's overall life. I am not one of those people. Five years ago I had my turn left moment. (And like Donna Noble, I chose to turn left).
First some backstory, five years ago I took a ten day study abroad trip to London. I only knew a few people on the trip, one of whom was one of my best friends at the time, "S". Looking back, "S" was not a good friend, she was controlling, judgmental, and not very understanding. She was the kind of person who liked to make other people feel small so that she felt more important. For anyone who's read My Not So Normal Life, she was the Becky to my Lily.
Taking me to five years ago when I boarded a plane and took my first trip without my family and went farther from home than I'd ever been. In London everything changed. In those first few days I'd grown tired of S. Call it a combination of jet lag, being together 24-7, and just the expereince of being a thousand miles from home, but I wanted freedom. I started to realize I didn't want to be under her thumb. I didn't want to be the person who's missteps made S feel better about herself. I no longer sought her approval. Not to say I was "to hell with her" but I was in London for a short period of time and wanted to have a say in what I did instead of follow her around. Getting me to fourth day of the trip. We'd just spent the morning touring the city with the group and had the rest of the later afternoon/evening off. I needed batteries for my camera (the piece of junk had already sucked the juice from the jumbo pack I'd brought) and S wanted to go to walk up with some girls to the High Street. As the entire class left the hotel S and some girls went right to walk up to the high street and the other half went left in search of the grocery store Tesco's. I stood frozen in the middle. Like a dog with two masters calling it I hesitated on who to follow. Do I continue to follow S and be the good lackey she wanted? Or do I do what I want to do? I chose to go left, a choice which changed my life.
In deciding to go left I met M and K, who are now my best friends. S who didn't take kindly to my perceived rebellion eventually refused to even acknowledge my existence (if you haven't guessed I haven't talked to her in almost 5 years). But looking back, this is a decision that I think shaped the remainder of my life and helped make me who I am today. Had I not gone left I (probably) would not be a published author. (M was the one who really encouraged me to self-publish and helped me through the process). I'm sure I'd still have made it through law school, but M and K made it less lonely. They were extremely understanding and helped me through those hellish 3 years. I don't think I would have been able to get through law school or the bar exam without them. They encouraged me (and still encourage me), they don't look to control me or boss me around, they don't judge me. In short, they've helped me grow.
So while my alternate universe of turning right would not have ended in total world chaos (like Doctor Who), I would not be the person I am today had I not chosen to turn left.